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Child Protection Evidence: Systematic review on Early Years Neglect

Neglect has varying definitions across agencies and countries. However, evidence clearly shows that neglect of infants and young children has far-reaching consequences. For the purposes of this review, we have focused on neglect and emotional abuse in children aged 0 – 6 years using the World Health Organization definitions. Practitioners often lack confidence in identifying the emotionally neglected / abused infant or toddler and thus there is delay in implementing appropriate interventions.

This systematic review evaluates the scientific literature on early years neglect in children published up until October 2014 and reflects the findings of eligible studies.

The review aims to answer one clinical question:

  • What are the emotional, behavioural and developmental (EBD) features in the child indicative of any type of neglect / emotional abuse?

Key findings:

  • Between 2011 and 2014, 11 further studies have been identified, of which six are high quality case-control studies. These have reinforced the original findings but added further information in relation to the moral and emotional behaviour of the child as well as maternal sensitivity and mother-child interaction
  • We wished to identify features in the primary carer-child relationship; unfortunately there are still no studies relating to fathers in the context of early neglect, thus this review addresses solely mother-child interactions